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Just the facts

August 29, 2008

I’d like to see more facts on television news and less packaging.

After watching television coverage of the Democratic National Convention this week, I was struck by the way different television outlets covered the four-day event. Some, like C-Span and PBS, allowed time for viewers to hear the speeches for themselves. Other television outlets acted as if it were their job to talk over the events they thought were less worthy of our attention. They didn’t let the speakers speak for themselves.

Then this morning, Ray and I were surfing the cable news stations when we heard the words “Breaking News” from one of the reporters.  She told us that the Republican presidential candidate was going to pick a vice presidential candidate today.

I’m sorry, but when that story was filed early in the morning, there was still no news to break. News junkies knew the VP decision was due today — but that didn’t qualify the early-morning story as “Breaking News.” How often can you cry wolf and say “Breaking News” when there’s no breaking news to tell?

Another common tactic we’ve noticed on some cable television stations is the insinuating question. An example: “Is so-and-so weak on defense?” Viewers susceptible to these tactics may start to ask themselves: “Maybe so-and-so IS weak on defense.” Then anything those viewers hear about so-and-so could be framed by that insinuating question.

But the tactic itself raises a big question. Ray said, “I watch the news to get answers, not to get questions.” When did news outlets think it was their job was to raise questions instead of answer them? To raise questions, you can just keep people sitting behind a desk or around a table. To answer questions, you need to send out reporters to research facts or interview people or observe what’s going on.

Ray asked if I could imagine Ernie Pyle in World War II from behind a desk in America filing a news report that said, “Will the bombs explode in England?” instead of filing his first-hand reports from Europe as an American war correspondent.

No, I couldn’t.

— Cindy Hampel

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4 comments

  1. Hey CIndy. Great post. And speaking of conventions, I am wondering what you thought of Sarah Palin’s speech and sudden rise to political stardom?


  2. It’s all in the presentation, isn’t it? Fox News, which I don’t watch because of their conservative bias, is so good at this! I watch the PBS Jim Lehrer NewsHour to get the real scoop because I feel like they present both sides. My favorites are Mark Shields and David Brooks because they have their opinions and can see the other side’s view as well.


  3. Hi, Cindy. When I think of Sara Palin’s sudden rise to political stardom, I think of the “Johnny Bravo” episode of “The Brady Bunch.”

    Since the campaign right now won’t let regular political reporters interview her, I have to wonder if the campaign thinks she’s “ready for prime time.” I’ve also seen a video of her as governor addressing the Alaskan Independence Party, whose motto is “Alaskans First — Alaskans Always!” In the video, she says she supports their efforts. I’d like her to explain what that means.


  4. Sharon, my husband would agree with you about PBS!



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